Egypt and Ghana to meet in African Cup final

Egypt will defend its African Cup of Nations title in the final against Ghana after thrashing fierce rivals Algeria 4-0 in a testy semi-final yesterday.

BENGUELA, Angola // Egypt will defend its African Cup of Nations title in the final against Ghana after thrashing fierce rivals Algeria 4-0 in a testy semi-final yesterday. Ghana eliminated Nigeria 1-0 in the other semifinal at Luanda to reach its first African final in 18 years. Egypt will carry an 18-match unbeaten streak in the African Cup into Sunday's final in Luanda. There, the tournament's most successful team will try to win a third successive African final and a seventh overall.

"This is a special win," Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan said. "We all wanted a win but we didn't expect to win by four goals." Ghana won the last of its four titles in 1982. "It's unbelievable," Ghana scorer Asamoah Gyan said. "We are a young team and not many people gave us a chance of making the final." Algeria was the last team to beat Egypt in the African Cup, in 2004 at Tunisia, and had never lost to Egypt in the tournament. But Algeria's problems began when Rafik Halliche was sent off for his second yellow card in the 36th minute, and Hosni Abd Rabou scored from the penalty spot.

Two more Algerians would be red-carded in the second half as Egypt would add three more goals in an unexpected rout. Mohamed Zidan's 15-yard shot doubled Egypt's advantage in the 65th, then Nadir Belhadj was ejected, reducing Algeria to nine men. Substitute Mohamed Abdel Shafy made it 3-0, followed soon after by the forced exit of Algeria goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi. Algeria and Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra said: "The level of refereeing in Africa is still very poor. We will be going to the World Cup. We will get enough time to improve."

Replacement Mohamed Gedo capped Egypt's first tournament win over Algeria with a late goal in injury time and his Cup-leading fourth goal. Gyan, Mali's Seydou Keita, Angola's Flavio and Egypt's Hassan have scored three each. Gyan's lone goal eliminated hosts Angola in the quarter-finals, and his 21st-minute header, assisted by Kwadwo Asamoah, sealed Ghana's win over Nigeria. Nigeria, which dominated possession, created chances after Gyan's goal but Ghana responded with solid defence. Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac said: "I had told my players that we were going to play to reach the final and not to produce beautiful football. Only the result matters. It's all about the result."

Ghana's Opoku Agyemang left the field in the 32nd with a leg injury, dealing a blow to a team which excelled without its core players, including Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah. Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu said: "We didn't lose to a better side, but to a youthful and enterprising team. We were better and we paid for not making the most of our chances." Nigeria and Algeria will meet in the third-place playoff on Saturday at Benguela.

* AP

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